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Why Local News Sites Need Twitter In Bad Weather

Over the weekend my hometown was hit by some pretty nasty thunderstorms. While it wasn’t nearly on the scale of what happened in Joplin, MO, the word “tornado” was thrown around a few times in Facebook updates from people in the area.

I don’t live in the area any longer, I have friends and family who do. There are a few different news sources both in town, and regionally, that were covering the storm as it was happening.

But when I wanted to get information about what was happening, I chose Twitter over all of them.

When the weather gets bad, people start tweeting about it. They hear a tornado siren, or they see hail, and the next thing they do is type it out and press send.

Search the word “tornado” into Twitter’s search bar and your results are a bit muddy. I knew the name of the city that I had heard a possible tornado touching down in, so I typed the city name followed by “tornado”. The results that I got were in real-time, from people in the area who were writing tweets that had the city name in it, and the word “tornado”.

Local news sites need this resource. Many sites will ask people to send them news and photos of what’s happening in their neighborhood. They have an update screen, and a big Terms & Conditions document to read.

While that is valuable over time, the immediate value is going to be in piping in search results from those keywords for events as they are happening.

Often you will know in advance that a bad storm is coming. If that’s the case, take a moment and build out a new page on the site with the keywords selected. Every time someone writes a tweet with those keywords, it will appear on the page that you created just for that purpose.

On the page, a disclaimer should appear stating that the newspaper can’t take responsibility for the content of the tweets that are appearing.

Using these tweets, reporters can follow-up with people about quotes for stories about the storm’s impact.

Twitter has a lot of uses for local news sites. Using it as a tool for your organization’s weather reporting is one worth experimenting with.

Photo credit: poorboy1225 on Flickr

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